What is a Multi-cloud Environment?

Published: 13 September 2021

Reading time: 3 minutes

Multi-cloud Infrastructures are the New Standard for Enterprise IT.
The term Multi-cloud refers to the use of multiple cloud services within the same enterprise architecture. A multi-cloud environment can encompass any number of infrastructure (IaaS), platform (PaaS), and software (SaaS) services from different vendors.

There are several benefits to employing a multi-cloud approach to IT. The organization can reduce its reliance on any single vendor to support disaster recovery and ensure business continuity, and use multi-cloud load balancing to distribute traffic intelligently across resources for optimal efficiency and performance.
Developers and business units gain the flexibility to choose the most appropriate infrastructure for the services they deploy and the geographies in which they operate, and IT can tailor data storage to requirements for cost, performance, and regulatory requirements.

It’s useful to understand the difference between multi-cloud and hybrid cloud. While hybrid cloud refers to the use of a mixture of deployment modes within an architecture, such as legacy on-premises, private cloud, and public cloud environments, multi-cloud is the use of multiple public cloud environments from more than one vendor, with or without additional private cloud resources.

Transitioning to a Multi-Cloud Datacenter
The transition to cloud, and multi-cloud, environments is a generational transition for IT. This transition means shifting from largely dedicated servers in a private datacenter to a pool of compute capacity available on demand. While most enterprises began with one cloud provider, there are good reasons to use services from others and inevitably most Global 2000 organizations will use more than one, either by design or through mergers and acquisitions.

Traditional vs. modern datacenter

The cloud presents an opportunity for speed and scale optimization for new “systems of engagement” — the applications built to engage customers and users. These new apps are the primary interface for the customer to engage with a business, and are ideally suited for delivery in the cloud as they tend to:
• Have dynamic usage characteristics, needing to scale loads up and down by orders of magnitude during short time periods.
• Be under pressure to quickly build and iterate. Many of these new systems may be ephemeral in nature, delivering a specific user experience around an event or campaign.

The benefits of a multicloud model
– Organizations using multiple cloud providers can benefit from their relative strengths in certain service types and areas, and compensate for a potential lack in others. Examples include using a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offering from a provider that specializes in artificial intelligence and machine learning toolkits or a provider that serves a specific geographic area more effectively.
– Using multiple cloud providers for various services can also help an organization to increase its operational resilience. This method spreads the risk associated with downtime from potential service outages or data loss across multiple providers.
– By consuming services from more than one cloud provider, organizations can benefit from not being locked into a commercial relationship with a single provider.
– Because multicloud deployments help organizations avoid vendor lock-in, they can choose cloud services that are the most cost-effective for their needs. The arrangement can potentially give more leverage to negotiate pricing as well.

Complexity of a multicloud strategy
A multicloud approach can create additional risk and undermine a cloud strategy’s success. Here’s why:
– Navigating through multiple platforms to manage and maintain heterogeneous environments can add complexity for IT operations and development and DevOps teams. Challenges may be related to acquiring new cloud-specific skills, managing multiple tools for different environments, or successfully monitoring costs from the multiple services in use.
– Moving applications successfully between different cloud providers, or between an on-premises environment to a public cloud, can often be a hassle. This is due to the proprietary nature of the cloud platforms each provider uses.

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